“That’s hot!," a famous line from Paris Hilton, and also a reality of this past summer. And as the temperatures soared, so did blood sugars of many patients with diabetes, while others saw their blood sugars drop. How is that possible, and what ever can we do to protect ourselves?
First of all, we need to understand that excessive heat or cold puts a strain on the body. The body often goes into a flight or fight mode under stress, releasing hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol. These survival hormones cause the liver to release more glucose for energy, which can result in higher than normal blood sugars.
But, to make it more confusing, low blood sugars can also occur during weather extremes as your body utilizes more energy to stay warm or tries to cool down. This can seem very complicated as we try to enjoy our vacations and maintain good blood sugar control.
What you need to remember is that where your blood sugar takes you is dependant on other factors such as hydration, exercise and what you eat. Hydration is probably the single most important element to help us stay healthy outdoors. Clear fluids such as water are best, with Gatorade or another electrolyte beverage handy if you are sweating excessively. Anyone with diabetes is especially prone to dehydration, which can become dangerous if left unchecked. Dehydration can also cause confusion, which may make a person unaware of a low blood sugar.
The key piece of advice I can give you is to stay well hydrated and test blood sugars more frequently while outdoors. Also remember that your medication and meters may not work well when subjected to temperature extremes. Store them safely in areas where they will not overheat or freeze.
Have fun, and travel safely!